Blogger - Kate Blincoe, Communications Manager

Did you watch EURO 2012? I watched a few matches, but more in an ‘ok then if it’s on’ rather than a ‘come on, score!’ kind of way. I’m probably in a minority, but I find it hard to get too excited about something where I can neither influence the result nor feel personally affected by the outcome.

What I can get fired up about, however, is local people doing extraordinary things for wildlife and having the chance to get behind a regional candidate in a national competition. Yes, its time for the RSPB Telegraph Nature of Farming Awards 2012.

The awards aim to seek out the very best in wildlife friendly farms across the UK. Last year, over 22,000 of you showed your support by voting for your favourite finalist. Every vote cast helps farmers know how much their efforts are appreciated. It also shows government how important wildlife is, and helps us work towards getting a fair deal for green farmers. 

We’re delighted to introduce our regional shortlist. Our judges currently have the task of scrutinising these farms to decide who our regional winner is, and then we will all get the chance to vote to choose the ultimate farming champion. So, with an impressive drum roll...

Norfolk’s farmer, Toby Bulgin, has over 160 bird species on his livestock farm, including the majestic common crane and the lapwing, resplendent with its punk plumage. Water voles and otters grace the carefully managed ponds and ditches and the Aberdeen Angus cross herd graze happily amongst the wildflowers on the organic grassland.

Our local boy has two other farmers to contend with. Jason Gathorne-Hardy, along with his team, manages a diverse farm in Suffolk, including woodland, flood meadows, arable and grazing land. Whether it is through traditionally managed hay meadows, managing woodland coppice or planting nectar rich flower mixes, all farm operations are carried out with nature in mind. The farm also runs a small educational programme for local schools.

Last but not least, John Hewitt from Lincolnshire with his faultless wildlife friendly arable farm. John is passionate about protecting resources such as soil and water and has had great success making the farm better for birds. Skylark plots ensure skylarks have suitable places to nest and after John’s hard work, grey partridges are now present on the farm. John enjoys listening to the purr of turtle doves from the farm kitchen window, but he isn’t standing still as he’d like to see more of them and other nationally declining farm wildlife doing well on his farm. 

These are the people that I want to sit on my sofa and shout about. They are the defenders of our countryside, and their goals are the ones that I will cheer for. Farming may not be such a great spectator sport as football, but it is something that affects us all. Look out for the regional winner in July and get voting!